Remember, Faith is Part of Back to School
By Bishop David J. Malloy
It’s August so it’s already back to school time. Many schools open before Labor Day during this month. So these next few weeks involve getting in the last cookouts, final visits to the pool and sundry summer activities. 
A special consideration should be given this month to our young people heading off to college. They might be commuting to school in town, but many go away for studies. These young people face tremendous challenges, some of which will form the rest of their lives.
Now, without the security of mom and dad nagging, cajoling or simply watching over, they have to make life work by their own decisions. Our college young people have to show the personal discipline of getting to class, studying, and generally taking the college experience seriously.
Students have to manage money. For some, it’s the first time. They have to get their laundry done on their own, take care of their health, and generally take on numerous details of life that were many times done for them by others. All of this is called growing up.
Parents, of course, think a lot about and worry over the kids while at school. Separation anxieties and the empty nest feeling can mark the emotions and the prayer lives of parents. That’s especially the case if the child heading off to school is either the first or the last to do so.
The move to college has probably been anticipated by numerous conversations between parents and the student. Phone calls, Facetime or Skype are probably common in the first months after the separation. There is likely a regular checking in and updating of how things are going.
All of this is normal, healthy, and probably repeated thousands of times across the country. 
But especially in this month of August, one theme should be an essential and prominent topic of conversation with students moving away for school. It is the question of the personal responsibility of the student to continue to practice his or her faith in situations that are likely to be enormously challenging.
Life on many college campuses has been well chronicled and is no secret. The lifestyle that is encouraged is one that frequently is profoundly at odds with the teaching of Jesus Christ. 
At many of our institutions of higher education, young people are encouraged to drink heavily, engage in a partying and sexual lifestyle, and in general imitate the Israelites dancing around the golden calf while Moses was away. Is it any wonder that so many of our young people lose their Catholic faith during their college years?
Parents, have you had repeated, loving, but specific conversations with your college students about their practice of the faith? 
Even as they are entering adulthood, young people need your guidance and support. They need to know that you are a lifeline for what is truly good.
Before they leave for school, have you asked them about where they will be going to Mass, each Sunday? Don’t be afraid to get specific. What is the Mass schedule there? (Maybe you actually checked that out with them when you made a site visit). Ask them on the phone, what Mass did you go to? Does anyone go with you? How do you like the priests? What times and days are confessions offered?
Talk to them about prayer. Don’t be afraid to ask about or discuss with them the almost inevitable challenges of living a morally good life in the midst of temptations or even exclusion if they don’t join in.
In the end, more than good grades and that much desired stable job after college, only one thing matters for the students and for all of us. That is life eternal with Jesus Christ.
Parents, use this last month before school to lay the foundation for your support for the faith of your college student. They need and often appreciate your help and encouragement more than you know.